I am currently sifting through my backlog of book review notes and this is one that I had read last Halloween (it seemed fitting!).  I had strayed from the cozy genre into paranormal with the hope of finding a new series of books to capture my attention…

This was the first book in a year or so where I seriously thought about stopping it, but I soldiered on.  Joy and her friend Roxy go to Eastern Europe where Roxy is in search of the “Dark Ones”, – vampires that she has read about in a book (irritation no.1).  Joy who doesn’t believe in vampires, for a couple of chapters at least, starts to get visions in a pub, when 2 men walk in – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one was a regular man and the other was a ‘vampire’ (irritation no.2)

Roxy is obsessed with sex and the vampire and frustratingly the author didn’t give her any depth or redeeming features – someone somewhere should have told her to grow the fuck up and get over her groupie fantasies (irritation no.3).

Soon Joy starts shagging Raphael a head of security, cue skin crawlingly awful sex scenes, (irritation no.4) not to mention that despite her comments about safe sex in the first few chapters, she doesn’t seem to care that the condom split.

Irritations 5 to 30… The plot felt lacklustre as it was obvious who the serial killer was when he walked into the bar; there were also more awful sex scenes and the concept of the Dark Ones felt embarrassingly fan girl as was Roxy’s reaction to the vampires. I had such hopes for this book because of all the reviews and I went from hoping that it was just a ‘slow starter’ to just wanting to get it over and done with as soon as possible.  It really wasn’t my cup of tea.  However if you like Chick Lit, then this might be for you.

http://katiemacalister.com/

Happy New Year! In the early hours of 2012, I finally finished this book which is the first in the China n Chintz Mystery series and I have been trying to write a review for it for a few weeks with the question ‘Did I really not like it that much?’ at the forefront of my mind.  The story features Emerald O’Brien, the owner of a china tea shop and town witch, who is also a single mother to two children Kip and Miranda.  The story starts off with her being visited by the ghost of Susan Mitchell who asks her to help prove that her husband had murdered her, the following day Susan pays another visit with another astral nasty in tow bent on destroying Susan and her family.  This makes up the psychic/mystery part of the story.

I really wished that I liked this book more than I did …it went on for ages, and not in a good way.  Sometimes you start reading and the main character just bugs you.  Emerald has had a hard life, but she is also very smug, spouting her rules and regulations (that she often doesn’t follow herself) to all and sundry.  Her kids’ antics were probably supposed to show how understanding and kind she is, but instead it showed the weaknesses.  Turns out that one of her kids had done a spell which had created a “Mr Big and Ugly” spirit that had set out to kill Susan, her family and friends and destroying her house at the same time.  Getting rid of the spirit almost cost her her life as well as that of her friend too.  The séance and cleansing ritual were covered in great detail, but what seemed really weird was that after all the injury, destruction and fear, the punishment for the kid was grounding and being banned from doing magic, I don’t know, I would have thought that if an entity had been conjured that wanted to kill everyone, that there would be more of a consequence…

The mystery part was totally underwhelming.  There wasn’t really a lot of investigating going on and information just fell into her lap via her friend.  The murderer was introduced in the final quarter of the book, and as soon as soon as he had appeared, there was no doubt who the killer was straight away.  I’ve mentioned this before, but this is always such a disappointment and when there isn’t a strong story line, likable characters or a situation to redeem this, finishing off the book feels like a chore.  The ‘showdown’ seemed rushed and quite clumsy, here’s the bad guy – coincidentally with ‘bad guy’ written over his forehead, and off she goes ferreting around his house looking for evidence. He finds her and he tries to kill her.

With the gaps in the details of the murder and mystery part, there were some really odd moments of highly detailed elements that at the time you think are odd, but hope that later on it will be a clue, but no, detailing how her kid smelt musty because she didn’t shower was just a peculiar detail for no reason.  The final thing that got up my nose were that there were also a lot of ‘personal belief’ statements which again felt more patronising than anything else.  After all of her talk about her ex husband and what she was looking for in a man, she didn’t waste any time in hopping into bed with the new bloke without getting to know him, then when he starts acting like an asshole she’s all surprised and of course in the end his behaviour effects the kids.

So, on the whole, while this book seemed really promising – and I loved the author’s website, it just didn’t work for me. I think that sometimes when you read some truly brilliant books, the ones that are just OK often seem worse, would I read the next in the series?  Sadly, no.

Author’s website http://www.galenorn.com

Hooked on Murder

Molly Pink co-ordinates events at Shedd and Royal books, but ends up stumbling upon the body of Ellen Sheridan, leader of the crochet group and her late husband’s old business partner.  Soon she is being targeted by the policewoman in charge of the investigation whose judgement is clouded by jealousy over Molly’s relationship with Detective Barry and feels like the only way she can get herself out of the sticky situation is to do some investigating herself.

What I liked about this book was that she takes up crochet and it documents her journey into learning different techniques and the slippery slope into yarn addiction.  As a way of de-stressing she joins a crochet group who are struggling to make a blanket which is to be auctioned off for charity, as with most groups there’s a huge amount of politics to be tip toed around, not to mention the rivalry between crocheters and knitters.

I found Molly quite a tragic figure, while she was doing her best to carve out her own life, it seemed like the world couldn’t help but give her a few kickings along the way, not to mention a boyfriend who just wanted a housekeeper and a cook on tap.

The murder mystery part itself was cleverly made (even though the murderer was a peripheral character that was barely mentioned, which as a reader sometimes feels like a cop out) and it was only when there was a face off between the characters that everything fell into place and it went into scary movie territory – the ‘don’t go into the basement on your own’ kind of thing 😉

I would say that it was an enjoyable book that was OK, but didn’t necessarily hit all of the buttons.  Still, as a crocheter I liked the descriptions about the way that they made the blanket and the crochet vs knitters show down.   Let me know what you think!

Betty has her own website http://bettyhechtman.com/and Facebook page as well as photos of the crochet patterns – so get your hooks out!!

I am ashamed to even look at how long it has been since I posted a review, unfortunately when life, especially one that is governed by the pain of nerve damage takes over, I need to make like a slug, pop the pain pills and hope that I’ll emerge out of the other side…ish.  It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading and I have been making review notes to kickstart my brain into remembering them.  There has been some good books, great books and others that I would rather forget about…. so here we go…

Thankfully I am feeling much better now and am back blogging again, I have a huge backlog of reviews that I have hand written, so there are lots to cover and when better to start than a Bank Holiday 🙂

Fundraising the Dead, this is the first book in the Museum Mystery series and as someone who loves antiques and museums, I was really excited about this book,  but I really struggled to get into it.  Nell is a fundraiser at the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society and hours before a large event, she is cornered by Marty, a Board Member, who says that part of her family’s legacy is missing.  Soon Nell discovers that there is more stuff missing and things get worse when the only other employee who knows about the thefts turns up dead.

I am not sure why this book was such a slow starter, maybe it was the relationship between Nell and Charles (the Society’s Director), who just had baddie written all over him… or it was the long descriptions of meetings which never seemed to lead to anything (yes, I know that it part of the work of a fundraiser, but to repeatedly go over the details – it felt like I was there, and not in a good way).  The book started to turn around when Nell, Marty and Jimmy got together to trap the thief,  however the culprit was so obvious that he could have been wearing a sash saying ‘I steal stuff to maintain my lavish lifestyle, ask me how’.

What irritated me most was Nell’s character.  On one hand she is portrayed as this professional woman with high standards, on the other, she is this sexually liberal woman who is willing to have a ‘I’m using him as much as he’s using me’ relationship with her boss, only to act all hurt when she figures out that Charles has been using her (and anything else in a skirt).  Then in a blink of an eye, she is flirting with the handsome FBI agent.  It just seemed disjointed as if the writer took all the stereotypical behaviours of a single 30 something woman on TV and smooshed it into a character.

In all, it was an OK book, but it will be a while before I read the next book in the series, and then only when I am going through a book drought.

The author’s website http://www.sheilaconnolly.com

This is the fourth book in the Booktown Mysteries, featuring Tricia who owns ‘Haven’t Got A Clue’ – a bookshop specialising in mysteries.  Her sister, Angelica, has just launched her career as the new Martha Stewart with her cookery book and on the eve of her book tour there is an explosion in one of the other bookshops in the street.  The owner, Jim, is killed, and Angelica’s boyfriend, Bob, is injured and will not co-operate with the police and is very tight-lipped about the whole matter.

With Angelica away, soon Tricia finds herself taking care of Anglica’s shop and café, attempting to take care of an increasingly hostile Bob, dealing with mourning shop manager, as well as collecting for a fund for Jim’s mother and trying to figure out what happened.  She certainly has her hands full!

This is my favourite book in the series, I had really hoped that Tricia and Captain Baker’s relationship would move on, but instead he put things on hold to take care of his ex-wife who became sick.  To top it all, Revolting Russ has gone from being an irritant to verging on being a stalker.  I can only hope that Captain Baker’s behaviour is a way of illustrating that he and Tricia are made from the same cloth – she deserves a little happiness.  I loved hearing more from Miss Marple, she sounds just like my cat (although a little less set on world domination).

I feel sorry for Tricia, given that she is always trying so hard to help other people – and they rarely seem to appreciate it. The murder plot itself was very clever and as always the reveal showed that there was a lot more at going on in the town that meets the eye.  What I enjoy about this series is that the additional goings on in the town is not just to add colour, but creating sub plots that evolve in the background throughout the series. It also adds updates of what happened in previous books, like Ginny and Eugenia, to prove that even though the crime has been solved, that there are repercussions.

Like the last book, it seems to be that the men are the most disappointing, other than Mr Everett who is an absolute star.  The rest all seem to be lacking (especially Bob and Revolting Russ).  The murder victim, Jim, seems to have been a complete ass in spite of the love of a good woman and even Captain Baker is losing brownie points because of the way that he is treating Tricia.

The final scene revealed that Tricia isn’t totally taken for granted and I loved what happened with the delivery man.  It certainly left a lot of room for new plots and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

This book was very kindly sent to me by Lorna Barrett, thank you.

For fans of this book, Lorna Barrett is the pen name for Lorraine Bartlett and she has a new book series coming out in the autumn called ‘A Matter of Murder’, a craft themed mystery which looks brilliant.  Keep your eyes peeled for this one!

This is the fourth in the Vintage Magic Series and I had forgotten how much I loved these books, Madeira (or Mad) owns a vintage clothing shop and also has a psychic ability to have visions when she touches old clothes, which helps her solve murders.

One morning she is sent a dress she designed for a broadway star and friend, Dom, with a note saying that she is dead and that Mad should use her talents to solve her murder.  Next thing that she knows, she is on her way to New York with her FBI boyfriend Nick and her best friend Eve to help Dom’s son who begged her to help and see if she could pick up on the events leading to her death by reading her clothes.

Annette Blair is brilliant at capturing emotion in her books and soon you are sensing the loss of Dom and the grief that Mad is feeling, but it isn’t all doom and gloom as there are some brilliant comedic moments, usually involving Mad and Werner who is a Detective in Mystic Falls who follows her to New York after Nick has to follow a potential suspect.  In this book Werner is becoming more human, showing flashes of affection for Mad – he even attended a fashion show which Nick declined to go to and ended up being a hero.  I also loved the way that Eve shows such delight in antagonising Nick and her joy when Mad shows interest elsewhere.

The book swings back and forth from Mystic to New York, so there was only the briefest mention of Dante the ghost in her shop, and I really, really missed him.  However we did have some classic Eve vs Nick moments and her Dad and Aunt Fee turned up in New York just when she needed them too.  There are also appearances of characters in her other books (these are romance novels, which I didn’t realise and spent most of the book wondering when someone would hurry up and get murdered!).

I really enjoyed this book, the characters were vibrant and even though the book was set in anther location, the plot didn’t suffer or lose momentum at all.  Also, the murder solving element of the book is double-sided as the characters need to find physical evidence to back up Mad’s visions, which adds extra excitement to the book.

This is the best book yet and I really am looking forward to the next one in the series!

http://www.annetteblair.com/

When ‘A Glimpse of Evil’ dropped through the letter box I promised myself that I would read it slowly and savour it, especially as I had spent the previous week re-reading all of the Psychic Eye books.  Fast forward to waking up at 2 am and not able to get back to sleep, so I thought that I’d read just one chapter… next thing I knew, birds were singing and the sun was up!  This is what happens with Victoria Laurie books, they are just like praline chocolates – you just can’t stop at one.

This is the 8th book in the Psychic Eye series, Abby and Dutch are moving to Texas where Dutch and Brice, a recent Abby convert as well as boyfriend to Candice, is starting a new FBI office specialising in Cold Cases and Abby is their secret weapon.

‘A Glimpse of Evil’ is much darker than the other books.  Abby is thrown into the deep end and is not only pushing herself to the max sorting through dozens of cases to see whether they are solvable (and being awesome, she managed to solve three in the first day).  She has to deal with pretty horrific crimes, as well as an office full of agents who are all sceptical of what she can do.  This only changes when she is sent out with an agent to find some clues, only for him to produce one of his own cold cases for her to look at and then decides to follow her instincts and do a little investigating on the way back.    Next thing they know, she has found two bodies, discovers the murderer and ends up having to defend herself using a gun.  All culminating with her being suspended and at a loose end.

Also with time on her hands, Candice convinces Abby to looking at a FBI cold case involving a serial child killer – of course this leads to another near death experience for Abby!  Thankfully, things are going well with Dutch and Abby, but Candice and Brice are constantly bickering and misunderstanding each other.  There was a brief cameo of Dave (I missed him) and Milo (who seems to be moving to Texas too), but I really missed Cat.

You could really get a sense of Abby spreading herself too thin, torn between her old style of investigating with Candice and doing readings, as well as helping Dutch and Brice at the FBI.  It feels like this book is the one that breaks the camel’s back for Abby and is a natural turning point – and by the ending you know why!  I imagine that the next book will be even darker, especially with Abby working for the CIA.

It isn’t all darkness,  and there are still the usual Laurie style wise cracks – before going to the FBI, Abby had to go on an anger management course and she is trying not to swear coming up with some brilliant alternatives – and why the Hello Dolly not!

This book didn’t disappoint me and it had one of the most complex murder plot twists that I have read in some time.  With the move to Texas and Abby being accepted by the “establishment”, it does feel like a new era for Abby and the Psychic Eye books, but I do hope that we get to hear about Milo, Candice, Dave, Cat, Eggy and Tuttle even when she is a high flying spy.  Wow, what a book – I can’t wait until the next one.

http://www.victorialaurie.com/ Author’s Website

 

Feint of Art

It is hot here in the UK, that kind of muggy heat that makes you to feel completely overwhelmed as soon as you move, bleugh, so I am chilling out with the cats who are making their unhappiness known with lots of audible sighs and general grumples.  Thankfully I seem to have had better luck with my books this time, as soon as I read the first page of Feint of Art, I knew that this book would be a good’n – and after the last three disasters, I needed this to be a good book!

Annie Kincaid has painting in her blood – or to be more precise, forgery.  By the age of 10 after painting a perfect copy of the Mona Lisa she was hailed a prodigy, but in her late teens after spending time with her professional forger Grandfather in France, she discovered that unless she wanted a life on the run with the threat of prison hanging over her, she needed a career change.

Despite her best efforts, her past has continually dogged her.  A promising career as a professional restorer at the Brock Museum was halted when an expert, still smarting from the embarrassment of being outed as proclaiming one of her teenage forgeries as the real deal, revealed her past to the owners.  This led to her being fired and her new career change, starting her own business specialising in faux finishing.

However hard she tries, her talents as a painter – and as a result of the tutelage of her Grandfather, her talent for detecting forgeries, is constantly called upon.  This time her ex boyfriend, who also happens to be Head Curator of the Brock, asked her to authenticate a Caravaggio (which turned out to be a fake painted by one of her Grandfather’s cronies) in a midnight meeting, later on he disappears and a janitor is murdered.

To make matters worse, her new landlord is going to raise her rent – and her first meeting with him, she dinged his car and insulted him.  So when she was tasked with finding the originals of some Old Master drawings that had been forged by the same man who created the copy of the Caravaggio, she thought that she could kill several birds with one stone and also raise some cash while she is at it.

Annie is a brilliant character, she has good intentions and would always drop everything to help a friend, unfortunately this also means that she finds herself in sticky situations.  Other supporting characters include Mary her assistant;  Annette the police woman; Frank her landlord and Michael the art thief. I really enjoyed this book and Annie was such a refreshing character with lots of dimensions.  As I have mentioned many times before, I actually love to see faults in a character as it makes them more believable and the cast of characters in Feint of Art are all well-rounded and incredibly likable, even the slightly iffy Michael!

I would describe the book as a mystery romp as you are propelled through the chapters along with Annie.  I liked the way that there were several new characters introduced throughout the book, instead of all lumped together at the beginning.  It also means that when  you think that you have an idea who the culprit is, someone new pops up.

The final scene was hilarious and beautifully captured the essence of the  book.  I can’t wait to read the next books, because you just know that Michael won’t be able to stay away and who knows what Annie will do next.

Hailey Lind’s website http://www.haileylind.com/

This book ticked so many boxes, a cozy murder mystery and Christmas – my favourite things, but as I started to read, it all went pear shaped.

The lead character Lucy Stone is married with children and is working herself to a frenzy keeping the house going, cooking up a storm for Christmas, looking after her husband and kids and working nights at a call centre for a catalogue company.

I found this book intensely depressing.  The description of the call centre job was  nothing but soul destroying, then one of their pet cats were killed, which Lucy and her husband casually dismissed (I think that I was more upset about it than they were).  Then Lucy’s mother was coming to stay and there was a long description about her father’s death and how she was coping with it.  In short, there was so much misery that the book gave me a stomach ache and life is too short to read books that do that to you, so I stopped reading it (something that I have only done with two other books). Out of curiosity, I flicked through to the last chapter and found out that I had guessed who the murderer was, so the murder mystery part of the book sucked too.

Some people really like this series, but it was just too much gloom and doom for me.  Blarg.

Crafty Book Worm

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